Thinking out of the box to reduce pollution now

  • Saturday, July 17, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion

If you really want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions work from home.

One thing good that came out of COVID-19 restrictions was many businesses were flexible enough to allow people to work from home. As a result, the haze that we see looking across Puget Sound over Seattle dissipated.

But now people are being sent back to work as if COVID was gone, which it’s not. While numbers are down we have had a number of deaths in Kitsap County recently.

Despite that, highways are almost as clogged as ever during weekdays, and people antsy to get out of the house after hibernating for 1½ years due to the coronavirus are clogging them on weekends, too.

BI is making plans to cut down greenhouse gas emissions in the future, with more electric vehicles, etc. But why wait? There are many things that can be done now to make a difference that won’t take a major overhaul of society.

What should be No. 1 on everyone’s list is to ask their bosses if they can work from home. That really cuts down on driving, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions.

Other activities also can be done online, such as doctor’s appointments and various meetings taking place on programs like Zoom. Those should be expanded as much as possible to keep folks off the road.

Other steps already in place, such as using mass transit, are not used enough. If you’ve ever looked at buses on Bainbridge Island you know they sure could be used a lot more. However, BI does practice what it preaches more than most communities by using nonmotorized vehicles, such as bicycles.

Carpooling is another great option that isn’t used enough. Sure, HOV lanes give some incentive to carpool, but a financial incentive might help even more, such as a 10 cent per gallon discount at the pumps. Government could pay the difference, or give gas companies a financial break to offer such a system.

Also regarding HOV lanes, when gridlock is extra bad, such as when there is an accident or disabled car or just a heavy commute, how about opening them up to single-vehicle occupants to relieve the congestion? There could be electronic signs posted along the HOV lanes allowing for such use. The lights would go off once the congestion is cleared.

Those are just two of many of my out-of-the-box ideas.

Another idea regarding carpooling would be an app for your phone. I just heard about an app that tells you how busy trails are for hiking. So it should be doable to have one that tells you if someone nearby is going to the same place you are at about the same time and provide information on how to connect with that person.

Another is what to do about gridlock so that cars that are on the road can be there a less amount of time. One possible solution would be to have businesses open at different times. Not every business has to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Some could be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Others could be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. That would spread out traffic and lessen gridlock.

Here’s another one: Doesn’t it seem like a waste of time and gas, along with a terrible increase in pollution, to sit at long traffic lights when no one is there? With the advanced technology we have it seems like a sensor could spot that situation and allow the light to change.

Something else I’ve been encouraging cities to do for years is to install more right-turn lanes. It can be maddening to sit behind someone going straight when you and the 10 people behind you all want to turn right. It’s also frustrating when no one ever uses that wide sidewalk nearby. In many situations if the sidewalk and lanes were narrowed a bit there would be room for a right-turn lane. And since everyone is stopped anyway having narrow lanes should not be an issue. Remember this: “Drive right, move left.”

The more I think about these ideas the better they sound. Not only are they good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, but also just basic stress as well, which benefits our emotional state of mind. That adds to our quality of life and helps our pocketbooks too.

Steve Powell is editor of the Bainbridge Island Review, North Kitsap Herald and Kingston Community News.

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